the week so far

last of the tomatoes

Autumn is really here. Time to rip up the tomato plants, dig out the garlic bed, and kick off the fall cooking repertoire. I haven’t been posting much of what we’ve been eating lately, not because I don’t have time but because we’re just making the same old stuff that I’ve already posted about in years past. Sometimes I do think, though, that it’s worth seeing what our regular repertoire morphs into with each new season. Some things we make once and never come back to, other dishes get made over and over again, with or without variations, depending on what needs using up. So here’s what’s gone into our eating this week:

grilling the chickens

Last weekend we were invited to a fabulous party featuring nine fat freshly killed chickens, brined, rubbed with za’atar and slow-cooked over a wood fire. We brought home half of a bird, and the next day turned it into one of the better chicken pot pies I’ve ever made. I mixed the smoky meat with a hot pepper from my garden and lots of peas and carrots, and made a gravy with stock left over from a Moroccan seven-spice chicken, giving it a sweet-spicy edge. With buttermilk biscuits on top, it was amazingly good.

chickpea & orzo soup

Continue reading

Advertisements

feeling autumnal

maple leaf

sun in the leaves

Cold weather, orange and yellow leaves, windstorms, torrential rains, and a stubborn head cold have conspired to make me really feel the onset of autumn. I’ve roasted a chicken, made several pots of soup, and braised a brisket with Frank’s Red Hot chile sauce and dried onion soup mix (not to mention my first kugel – more on that later). I also made dinner rolls, which I haven’t done in a million years.

sweet potato rolls

These aren’t just any dinner rolls, either. They’re sweet potato dinner rolls, which are sweet and earthy and soft and perfect for scenting the house on a cold fall evening.

sweet potato

Continue reading

the end-of-summer party

the end of summer party

Last weekend we threw our annual end-of-summer party. After the filthy wet weather on Labor Day I was half expecting it to turn into a huddle-inside-and-eat-soup party, but it turned out to be a glorious day. We sat in the sun and drank margaritas, caipirinhas, Negra Modelo, Jarritos soda and Pinotage. And ate a lot.

chorizo-stuffed mushrooms

I made tomatillo salsa, pico de gallo, and chorizo-stuffed mushrooms, Jon grilled flank steak and spiced sweet corn, and our friend Knut brought a pile of beef ribs that he marinated in a vast heap of fresh herbs and vegetables with a melon sauce, then smoked them on the grill.

grapes and tomatoes

There were fresh cherry tomatoes, Concord grapes, carrot salad, and ripe melon. We bought paletas for dessert, from the local Mexican supermarket, but people were still eating corn and drinking beer at 10 pm, so we never quite made it to dessert.

canna

It’s been a beautiful summer, but I think we’ve successfully rung in the autumn. And that’s OK with me.

end of summer dinners

prosecco

late summer back yard

Fall is almost here. Wait! Don’t panic! Just because school has started and the morning fogs have begun to roll in doesn’t mean we’ve lost summer altogether. There are still tomatoes spilling across the deck, roses and herbs mingling in the front yard, and sunny blue-skied afternoons to spend by the grill with a cold drink and a pair of tongs.

lentil salad

But the air is cooler, and I’m beginning to think ahead to the pleasures of autumn cooking – soup, beans, the first braise, the first roast chicken, the first winter squash. I walked by a garden in my neighborhood that had delicata squash vines covering the front yard and part of the yard next door – the squash looked ready to eat, brilliant cream-and-green stripes peeking out from the leaves. Then someone brought in a pile of fresh squash to the library, and I immediately snatched a couple.

Continue reading

cooking class: a dinner for fall

cooking class 10-14-08

We did our first volunteering of the season this week at Gretchen’s Cooking School. The chef was Don Shank of the Rhododendron Cafe, a nice place out on Chuckanut Drive in Bow. The Rhody has a gimmick, of sorts: each month they feature a different theme or ethnicity, so the menu is constantly changing. They also close every winter so the owners can travel and keep their sanity – the secret to the restaurant’s longevity. Not a bad idea, really.

cooking class 10-14-08

The focus of this class was seasonal food, especially local, so it featured cabbage, squash, apples and cheese. The weather’s gotten really chilly this week, so it was great to have all the warm, sweet flavors. Don brought lots of extra squash and some branches of Chinese lanterns for decor. Continue reading

buttery wild rice with chanterelles

chanterelles

It’s been a rainy, blustery week so far. It’s starting to snow in the mountains already, and the markets are piling their endcaps high with winter squash. Definitely time to bring out the autumnal recipes again. We marked the occasion with some baked chicken, delicata squash and our favorite wild rice with mushrooms.

chanterelles

Sometimes I go all out with this dish, adding chopped pecans and dried cranberries for a festive look and flavor, and sometimes greens as well. This time we had a lovely bagful of chanterelles that Jon picked up at the farmer’s market, and I didn’t want anything to compete with them. Continue reading

Another autumnal dinner

yellow fruit
I’ve been waiting all fall for the Brussels sprouts at the store to get good looking and cheap. I finally decided it was time, so I bought a big bag of sprouts and a fresh pork tenderloin and dug out the delicata squash from the fruit bowl. This is a notable dinner because it consists of two different vegetables I absolutely loathed when I was young.

J was in charge of the pork. He seasoned it with salt, pepper and thyme, seared it whole in a cast iron pan and put it in the oven for 20 minutes or so. Then he made an absolutely fabulous pan sauce with chicken stock and some reduced apple cider. Mmmmm. It had a wonderful intense, savory apple flavor. Continue reading

Hallowe’en dinner

yorkshire pudding in the oven

Don’t ask me how this got started, but every year on Hallowe’en we have to eat the same thing for dinner. Pumpkin soup, hot Italian sausages, and Yorkshire pudding. It’s a requirement. It’s warming, autumnal and not a little bit indulgent, so I guess it’s perfect for an autumn holiday. In any case, we’ve been doing it for years. Usually I get a small sugar pie pumpkin for the soup, which I actually did this year, but it will have to get used for something else this time, because we got hold of one of these:

Padana squash

It’s a padana squash, as far as I know, a sort of heirloom Italian pumpkin with awesome ribbing down the sides. J saw it at the Dunbar farmstand and immediately wanted to carve it, and Steve pointed out that it makes good eating, too. So on Saturday J carved it, and we saved the flesh for our soup. Continue reading

Hallowe'en dinner

yorkshire pudding in the oven

Don’t ask me how this got started, but every year on Hallowe’en we have to eat the same thing for dinner. Pumpkin soup, hot Italian sausages, and Yorkshire pudding. It’s a requirement. It’s warming, autumnal and not a little bit indulgent, so I guess it’s perfect for an autumn holiday. In any case, we’ve been doing it for years. Usually I get a small sugar pie pumpkin for the soup, which I actually did this year, but it will have to get used for something else this time, because we got hold of one of these:

Padana squash

It’s a padana squash, as far as I know, a sort of heirloom Italian pumpkin with awesome ribbing down the sides. J saw it at the Dunbar farmstand and immediately wanted to carve it, and Steve pointed out that it makes good eating, too. So on Saturday J carved it, and we saved the flesh for our soup. Continue reading

Ah, autumn!

The front yard in October

 Fall really came in with a bang this year. One week, we were having the most gorgeous warm evenings of the entire year, then the next week it rained. And rained. And the wind started blowing. Then it hailed. So much for summer. At least the leaf colors have been fabulous this year, when it stops raining enough to see them.

On the down side, we’ll miss the grill. But on the plus side, we can get going on the braises, the roasts, and casseroles, and the squash and greens. I love the first really seasonal food of any time of year, whether it’s the first asparagus of spring, the first cold noodle salad of summer, or the first batch of holiday cookies. Because we try not to buy out-of-season produce (much), it makes it all the tastier when its time does come. On our last couple of forays to Dunbar Gardens we’ve bought Delicata squash, leeks, Burgundy apples, lettuce, poblanos, tomatoes and chard. At the farmer’s market we’ve gotten potatoes, cheese, cauliflower and eggplant. Eventually the farmstand and market will close for the winter and we’ll be free to buy brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes at the store, and they will seem like a treat because we’ve been waiting for them. Continue reading